Bhutan, the Kingdom of Happiness, a beautiful country tucked away in the slopes of Himalayas, is a haven for travelers. If you’re into exploring and wanting to experience true seclusion and connect with nature, then you’re in luck. Especially for Indian travelers (among other countries), this little gem has been a favorite destination.
Thanks to its easy access, mesmerizing beauty combined with the stunning landscapes, it is stunning. Plus, there was not much in terms of entry barriers for Indian Nationals.
However, with the recent advent of new regulations, let me update you on the latest requirements. Read on to understand how to go about getting all the necessary permits and what’d be required.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
The rules and regulations pretty much remain the same for you.
Bhutan has a US$ 200-250 (depending on the season) per tourist per day minimal expenses defined. While, currently, citizens of India, Bangladesh, or the Maldives have been traditionally exempted from this daily tariff, this has changed. More on that below. However, this isn’t simply a visa, but rather covers the cost of just about everything during your stay.
Pro Travel Tip: Do not forget to check this complete travel guide for traveling to Western Bhutan.
Also, it should be noted that, except for visitors from India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives, all other visitors traveling to Bhutan need a visa. Visas can be procured online through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator directly as well as through a foreign travel agent.
For this, you will need to send a photocopy of your passport to the operator/agent, who will then apply for your visa. With the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) once the full payment of your holiday (including a USD 40 visa fee) has been wire transferred and received in the TCB bank account. Once received, the visa clearance will be processed within 72 working hours.
Pro Travel Tip: Do not forget to check this complete travel guide for traveling to Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan.
Okay, so let’s discuss the Minimum Daily Package, unique and ingenious way of ensuring quality tourism actually directly benefits Bhutanese.
The minimum daily package per tourist per night halt in Bhutan for tourists traveling in a group of 3+people is as follows:
• USD 200 /person/ night for the months of January, February, June, July, August, and December. • USD 250 / person/ night for the months of March, April, May, September, October, and November.
You may be thinking that this is steep rates to pay and you will be correct. Most other countries will not be charging such an amount on your visit. But, this covers a lot of your expenses.
Pro Travel Tip: Do not forget to check this complete travel guide for traveling to Eastern Bhutan.
As per the Bhutan’s tourism website, it covers:
Apart from the Minimum Daily Requirement that all foreign tourists (except India, Bangladesh, Maldives) have to pay, there may be a surcharge applicable as well. Tourists traveling in a group of two or less shall be subject to a surcharge as below
Indian, Bangladeshis and Maldivian nationals can obtain a permit at the Port of Entry on producing a valid passport, which has a minimum validity of 6 months.
Indian nationals visiting Bhutan must carry any of the two valid ‘Travel Documents’ – a Valid Indian Passport having validity of minimum 6 months; and/or Voter Identity Card, issued by the Election Commission of India. No Visa is required to visit Bhutan.
To further streamline an already simple process, the Department of Immigration, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, and the Tourism Council of Bhutan have launched the Online Permit System. This online system helps in easy processing of permits for regional tourists through registered Bhutanese tour operators and TCB certified hotels.
You should note that this service, however, is not mandatory (as is the case with other foreign nationals). Also, if you do use this optional service, do note that your port of entry can only be Paro and Phuentsholing. Visitors who use this facility will be able to obtain their permit clearances and route permits ahead of their arrival in Bhutan similar to international tourists.
Indians coming to Bhutan by road are required to obtain an ‘Entry Permit’ based on valid Travel Document from the Immigration Office of Royal Government of Bhutan at Phuentsholing, located on the Indo-Bhutan border opposite Jaigaon, West Bengal. Alternatively, if you’re traveling by air, you’ll again be required the valid travel documents mentioned above, and you’ll attain your entry permit at Paro Airport.
Pro Travel Tip: Are you wonder how much will be the cost of Bhutan trip? Check our detailed guide on how to calculate the cost or budget of Bhutan trip?
With the entry permit, you may visit Thimphu and Paro. However, if you’re planning on heading out and exploring the landlocked nation (as you should!), you’ll need a ‘special area permit’ from the RGoB Immigration Office at Thimphu on any working days (Monday to Friday).
When you’re visiting Bhutan, keep in mind that you’d require two permits- Entry Permit & Route Permit. The max duration for Entry + Route permit is valid for 15 days. Do note that these permits are available free of cost.
You’ll be able to obtain the same at Paro Airport or from the Immigration Office of Phuntsholing. These are the only two ways to enter Bhutan. The Entry permit is valid to visit places such as Thimphu (the capital) and Paro only and has a validity of 7 to 10 days.
Important Note: The Immigration office is closed on Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays. The permits are checked at every check post in Bhutan. Working hours are strictly from 9 am to 5 pm, and lunch break is from 1 to 2 pm.
Pro Travel Tip: Do not forget to check this complete travel guide for traveling to Central Bhutan.
(Fill in the entry form given at the Immigration Office and attach it in the below sequence)
Pro Travel Tip: If you prefer traveling solo, this article will help you plan a solo trip to Bhutan.
This whole procedure can take anywhere between 3 to 8 hours depending on the number of people in the queue.
Pro Tip: Avoid traveling on a Monday or on days where the Immigration office has been shut for 2 or more days at the stretch. Always better to be first in the queue, even if it means standing 2 hours before the office opens.
Important Note: If you’re on a package tour to Bhutan and your tour includes a Bhutanese Guide then the entry permit procedure can be done online by your travel agent. Only a clear scan copy of your passport has to be submitted to your agent.
If traveling via air to Paro, you just simply fill the Entry Form at the airport and move out. The process is smooth and quick.
Once you’ve arrived in Thimphu, you will need to attain a route permit. This permit will allow you to visit all other places you might fancy, such as – Chele La, Ha Valley, Douch La, Punakha, Gangtey, Phobjikha Valley, Trongsa, Bumthang Region, etc.
Stand in a queue to submit the required documents, the same as the entry permits, then come back after an hour to collect it. This whole process can take up to 2 hours.
Pro Travel Tip: Check our article about important tips for saving costs on the Bhutan trip, if you are looking to make a budget trip.
Of course, if you’re planning on staying longer than 7-10 days (and you should!), then you’ll need an extension for your permit. For this, you’ll need to visit the Immigration Office at Thimphu and avail the extension.
In addition to the above documents for the Route Permit, you have to attach the extension form with a photocopy of the taxi driver’s license x1 or photocopy of the bus ticket if traveling by bus. Max duration is 15 days from the day of arrival.
You need to first submit the extension form with the correct documents to a separate office at the Immigration Office in Thimphu and come back after an hour or so to collect it. Once the extension is granted, you go stand in the queue to submit your documents for the route permit.
Pro Travel Tip: If you are interested in exploring the wildlife in Bhutan, then please check our detailed guide on Bhutan Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks.
Ending the provision of free entry for Indian tourists into the country, Bhutan recently announced that it would levy a daily fee of Rs 1,200 per person from July 2020 as per the Tourism Levy and Exemption Bill of Bhutan, 2020. Other countries included in the scheme are Maldives and Bangladesh.
While this cost is substantially less as compared to other foreign nationals, and also, this doesn’t restrict Indian nationals from traveling freely. As for children between the age of 6 and 12 years, a fee of Rs 600 needs to be paid. The fee has the same name as that for other foreign nationals – Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) – and provides help to regulate the heavy tourist traffic in the country.
Pro Travel Tip: Do not forget to check this complete month by month guide on the best time to visit Bhutan.
While, yes, the new charge might seem like an excess charge. You must remember that it is for a great cause and helps in maintaining the culture and the sanctity of the country.
It also protects the things we are heading to Bhutan for – its nature, seclusion, and isolation. And, Bhutan is still a pretty friendly nation for Indian Nationals.
For comparison- the SDF for other countries is those who have to pay USD 65 (Rs 4,631) along with a compulsory flat cover charge of USD 250 (Rs 17,811) per day.
Overall, without any fees, restrictions, or constraints for Indians, this is a small price to pay along with knowing that you’ll be doing some good for the country!
This post was last modified on Jun 27, 2022 18:56
Are you looking for a hostel in Leh, or are you a biker looking to… Read More
Let me start this article to capture the road conditions from Delhi to Spiti valley… Read More